Friday, August 31, 2007

The Trip - Part Two

My mother only beleived in camping at KOA Kampgrounds.

New Mexico was the first stop. The tent we had was white and blue, a three person pop-up tent with those ‘collapsable poles’ – the type with that elasticy bungee chord type string in the middle. They bend and twist and collapse at inopportune times. I think there were only three poles that crossed over each other on the top of the tent. Then there were the little stakes we used to pound it into the ground so that some errant breeze wouldn’t blow our new home away. Imagine, just an overgrown raincoat separated us from the elements.

All I remember about New Mexico was that it was flat, it was our first state, and I want to live there someday. Alamogordo. Albuquerque. Names Bugs Bunny loved saying. That’s New Mexico.

Tennessee was scary. My brother and I were used to the flatlands, the desert, the land of tumbleweeds and cacti and suddenly we were around towering trees. Amidst the trees on the campground my brother and I found a playground. It was damp and there was moss all around. We were convinced it was a secret playground and we were the first to find it in centuries. I think we were in such awe that we didn’t even take a trip down the slide, just ran our hands over it and ‘felt the children from the past.’

It was in Tennessee that we learned of ticks, as a neighboring camper warned us that they jump out of the trees on to animals and people. As if we weren’t scared enough watching the trees bend in the winds. Shortly after, my mother did get a tick in her head and had my brother rub butter into it, but to no avail. Finally we went back to our informative neighbors and they extracted the blood sucker. My brother and I went straight into the tent and put clothes on top of our heads. We covered every inch of our body.

Lesson: Trees can be intimidating, and dangerous.

I think it was Oklahoma that had red sand, one of the states did. I had me favorite florescent yellow socks and wore them all the time, but in Oklahoma the sand got to them. There were also mosquitos. Lots and lots of mosquitos. They were everywhere, the state ‘bird.’

There was one state where we were greeted by a group of ducks. One of them had a shriveled leg. I imagined it got caught in a fire. We called them the welcoming committee, and gave them some bread (which I’m sure was their real purpose for visiting). There was a place to fish there and my brother caught a number of them. He used some of our spoiled meat for bait, the stench drew in the fish. Then, later, when we took a boat out on the lake my brother said it was okay to swim in it. So he and I jumped in the water and grabbed on to the side of the boat. We were enjoying ourselves, until someone from administration saw us and was screaming frantically. My brother and I climbed into the boat and came ashore. The lady was furious, she had specifically told my brother we couldn’t swim in the water as it was filled with water moccasins. He just grinned.

Arkansas had clay-like dirt, I think it was Arkansas. I had ziploc bags and was collecting some dirt from each state as we drove. At first my mother tried to tell me it was illegal (first it was theft, then it was something to do with ruining ecology) but in the end relented. Really, what’s a little dirt in a baggie? It was there that my brother was attacked by some birds. Apparently they nest in the ground and he got too close. He came running to our tent screaming, “mom! I got stung! I got stung!” as he thought they were huge bees. There was a puncture wound in-between his eyes (he got lucky with that one) and in his buttocks from them attacking as he ran away. It was the manager who told us that they were small birds, not large bees that attacked. He warned us that they nest around waters edge, so stay in the designated areas.

One campground had a sign around the pool forbidding you to walk on water.

In one state the wind was so strong even with the tent tethered down it was blowing away (with the cat inside!) so we stayed in a musty cabin instead.

In another state we met a kid who was a vegetarian. We didn’t understand what it meant, my brother and I never saw vegetables, it was all hotdogs and macaroni and cheese. So he ate a hotdog with us and liked it. How could he not? It’s all nitrates and salt. His family was furious.

Texas. Amarillo, the ‘armpit of the South’ as others have since told me. There were big bugs, crickets we could tie to our shoes and uses as moon boots, roaches the size of kittens.

Let’s see, in one of the states there was Mello Yellow, the first and last time I saw that brand of soda. It was some lemony-limey type thing. Another had Giggles Potato Chips. I had never realized there was such a thing as ‘regional food’ before then. The world was what it was.

We left behind Carls Jr. For the first few states that was a huge staple of our diet, when we got sick of the hotdogs we could get a hamburger for 39 cents and I think the fries were a quarter. In my memory, their fries beat out those of any other chain restaurant. McDonald’s was too expensive at the time, although one of my mother’s first jobs in our
‘promised land’ was to make the biscuits at McDonald’s (before they were sent frozen) so we ate there every day. She prided herself on how fluffy her biscuits were compared to others.

We didn’t go straight to New York, we stopped in Pennsylvania to meet the people my mom had us call Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin. At least, for a while we did. They were camping there and we would meet them on the campground, and then follow them to our temporary home.


Paper Fan Club said...

I LOVED reading this post. It really took me back to camping with my parents and sister as a kid. We would camp in a trailer in park campgrounds and never strayed too far from home, but it was still an adventure with meeting other kids and wildlife too. I love those memories. My own kids haven't the foggiest idea what "roughing" it means...

Victorya said...

Yeah, despite the undercurrent of why we were moving, it was fun getting out there and traveling all over the place. Some fond memories in there!

Anonymous said...

Mom, Dad, my 2 Brothers and I were tent campers also. (I had been through Girl Scouts and my brothers Boy Scouts) Not a pop-up tent, it was a big one with poles & ties and stakes. We would always pick the site farthest away so we could pretend we were deep in the woods. Of course, that meant we had a long way to walk to get to the bathroom. ha-ha.

Amel's Realm said...

WOW!!! SO MANY different places, different're RICH of experiences, Vic!!!